Nowadays, when people look back to the glory days of the sixties rock scene, the same usual suspects are always mentioned. The Beatles, Dylan, The Supremes, The Stones, Cooke, and The Beach Boys all seem to get their fair share of praise. But the fact of the matter is that many artists worthy of mention along with these legends are simply overlooked for whatever reason. One of these bands is the Mamas and the Papas. Sure, they were inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, had chart topping singles, and “California Dreaming” is usually the first song to be played in any movie or documentary about the sixties. However, it seems that the band who created such timeless classics as “Monday, Monday” and “Creeque Alley” are more known for their scandals than the actual music they created. Did John Phillips really have with sex with his daughter? Did Mama Cass really choke on a ham sandwich causing her to have a heart attack and die?
Questions like these seem to arise every time the band is mentioned in a discussion. Despite their many hits, the one most M & P fans will point to as their favorite is the ever controversial “I Saw Her Again.” At the bands heyday, Michelle Phillips was not only having relations with her husband John, but also band member Denny Doherty. The affair came as a shock to John, and Mama Cass who was in love with Denny, and for a time Michelle was dismissed from the group. This intriguing story that involved all four members is the precise reason why “I Saw Her Again” is so exceptional. The song, as you can guess, is all about the affair. Although Denny was originally credited with the writing credit, it was later discovered that John was in fact the mastermind behind the scenes, leading many to believe that the song was an actual in-house revenge ploy used to get back at Denny, knowing that the tension from singing the song night after night would be priceless.
The mysterious lyrics do not tell the full story, but just inferring from lines like “Everytime I see that girl/You know I want to lay down and die” the affair was a sore spot for everyone involved. The backstory behind the song is not entirely what makes it incredible however. Denny’s happy-go-lucky vocals mesh well with John’s lighthearted beat, and are indicative of the times they were created in, when many artists made classic love songs without putting too much emotional intensity into it but still managed to make them sound sensational and credible at the same time. But it is the colossal vocal harmonies lead by Cass and assisted by Michelle that give the song its pop.
The climax of “I Saw Her Again” occurs with a blunder. While recording, Denny came in too early at the beginning of the third chorus and famed producer Lou Adler decided to keep it in the recording, a decision of pure genius that Paul Mccartney believed too good to be planned and bands later replicated. While we may never know why the M & P fans do not get their proper due credit, “I Saw Her Again” is nothing short of sixties gold.